Auckland IT scene: generating revenue via location apps

Look Here founder eyes location-aware mobile applications and 3D technology

Location-based mobile services is not a new phenomenon, but Look Here’s technology takes the user beyond your traditional points-of-interest, claims its founder Roy Davies.

Look Here, based in AUT's Business Innovation Centre in Manukau, is essentially a tool that makes it simple to generate revenue through location-aware mobile applications, says Davies (pictured above), who is also the resident expert in usability and interactive 3D graphics at the Business Innovation Centre.

“We are attempting to go one step further than that and make it so that not only can you set out these points but they can be very complex points,” says Davies.

Users may be pulling information from another place; they may be connected together; or they might be like a treasure hunt that will only become available when you are close enough, he says.

Look Here allows people to make ‘layers’ with information and then put a price on it. An example could be creating a tourist trail.

“I can add sounds, pictures, video clips, website links – and then charge $2 for it,” says Davies. “We are making it so that anybody can create layers and charge people that want to use them. Or the layer might be free to use, but there is a charge for the companies that put the points on it and advertise on it, for example restaurants.”

Davies is currently working on one such trail app that is looking at historical Auckland, with pictures of what the city used to look like. The app will be available for iPhone and Android and will be sold through the App Store.

Another app, developed in conjunction with tourism companies here, lets tourists create a series of postcards that talk about their travels, and that other people then can follow. “It’s like social networking in the real world,” says Davies.

An API will be available for developers who want to create their own “Smartpoints” and “Smartlayers” that can be sold in a store as well, he says. He is aiming to make the app and the API easy to use. Look Here is in the alpha stage and he is hoping to have a beta ready by the end of the year.

Davies is also in charge of building a large 3D research centre, the Virtual Reality Suite, at AUT. After completing his PhD, he built up a similar virtual reality centre at the University of Lund in Sweden. Davies also runs his own consultancy, the Flexible Reality Studio in Auckland, helping organisations use 3D technology.

He says we are going to see more and more 3D in our everyday lives going forward.

“There is a transition of technologies from the lab and high-end visualisation centres into people’s lounges.”

People are now a lot more accustomed to putting on a pair of glasses to experience 3D, whereas that used to be an obstacle, he says. The fact that consumers can now buy a HD stereoscopic projector for about $8000 to $9000 means that we are likely to see more 3D consumer games.

He is also seeing a progression from stereoscopic screens with 3D glasses towards auto-stereoscopic screens without the glasses. In addition, there are a lot of new developments around interactivity, such as Microsoft’s Kinect and the Nintendo Wii, which are able to sense people’s movements, he says.

Advertising is another area that is embracing 3D technologies.“The reason we haven’t had stereoscopic displays in the home before is because there hasn’t been a mechanism for recording, transmitting and getting it into people’s homes at a reasonable price – whereas now you can,” he says.

“Auto-stereoscopic screens, where you don’t need the glasses, are eye-catching and still new in the public sphere. Add interactivity to that – walking past a 3D screen and things start to happen as you move your hand – and you’ve got the future of advertising”, he says.

* This article is part of a series about Auckland IT start-ups.

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